Draw Down the Moon 16
In the morning John drove his parents to the airport. He insisted—there was no point in them spending the extra money, and it would give them a little more time together. “Come visit us soon,” his mother said as they were waiting to board. “Maybe around Christmas?”
“You’ll get us for either Christmas or Thanksgiving,” John said. He hugged them both tightly, and waited until the plane h
ad safely taken off to head for home.
He’d been just a little nervous to go without Dana, even though she’d been peacefully sleeping when he left. He told himself it was a gesture of faith, of the belief in her that she needed—but still he found himself driving a little faster than normal, pressing on the gas a little harder.
He parked the car and forced himself to walk slowly from the car port to the house. Normal morning, he thought, just a normal morning.
Still, his heart was pounding as he jogged up the stairs to the upper floor. He didn’t care how he found her, as long as she was there.
The bed was empty and the sheets had been stripped off. John took a deep breath, reminding himself there were many places in the house they could be, and went to peek in the nursery.
Yes—there was Dana, nursing William in the rocking chair. She had put on slippers, an oversized t-shirt and pajama bottoms and had pulled back her hair, but her eyes were closed and she seemed half-asleep as the baby nursed.
John crossed the room and bent to kiss her forehead, remembering at the last moment her reaction the last time he tried this. Still, Dana only hummed and turned her head towards him. Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled at him sleepily.
“You’re back,” she murmured. Her hand drifted up to touch his cheek. “Why didn’t you wake me? I wanted to say goodbye.”
“You needed to rest. I told them we’d come for Christmas or Thanksgiving.”
“Mm . . .” She shifted William slightly against her breast. “If my mother visits Charlie this year like she’s been thinking about, Christmas would be perfect for us to go to Atlanta.”
“Otherwise, Thanksgiving? Sounds good. How are you two feeling this morning?” Her blackened eye had blossomed into green and purple bruises, and the scratches on her face were still red and angry. He stroked her unbruised cheek.
“He’s hungry and I’m sleepy, but I couldn’t lie in that bed one more second. The sheets are in the wash.”
“Okay. I’ll help you make up the bed later.”
“No need.” She yawned. “It’ll be done by the time you get home from work.”
“I’m not going to work. I thought I’d stay home a day or two.”
Now her eyes opened fully. “I’m fine, John. You don’t need to babysit me.”
“Not babysitting, honey, just . . . helping out. You could hardly walk yesterday.”
“I am a little stiff,” she admitted. The baby stopped nursing and looked at John with wide, serious eyes. Dana raised him against her chest and started to pat his back, murmuring, “Are you done already, sweetheart?”
“So you’ll rest today,” John said. He stroked her hair. “Okay?”
She nodded and gave him a smile. “Would you mind burping William while I take a shower?”
“Sure.” He took the baby and settled him against his shoulder.
Dana smoothed down her shirt and got up from the rocking chair gingerly, moving much like she had just after giving birth. She wasn’t more than a few steps away when she stopped and turned. “John?”
She paused, wrapped her arms around herself and said, “They’re not here anymore. I can’t feel them. The house feels . . . emptier . . . today.”
He didn’t need to ask who was gone. “Is that a bad thing?”
Her hands rubbed up and down her arms a moment, then she said, “No, I guess it’s not.”
“Maybe the reason they were staying is gone. Maybe whatever happened yesterday took care of it.” William belched and John checked his shoulder, realizing belatedly that a burp rag would have been a good idea. Dana was still rubbing her arms, and John added, “You cold, babe?”
“I can’t get warm,” she murmured. “Maybe I should take a bath.”
“Whatever you need,” John said. “Should I make you some tea, or some oatmeal?”
“Tea sounds good,” she said. “Do we still have some chai?”
“We do.” He stroked her cheek again. Her skin was warm to the touch. “You feel feverish. Have you taken your temperature today?”
“It was one hundred when I woke up. Not high enough to worry about. I had some orange juice to help with that.” She stroked William’s head, who was gumming a mouthful of John’s shirt, and stood on her toes for a kiss which John gladly gave. She caressed William one more time, turned and walked out of the room.
John stayed for several minutes more, patting and rubbing William’s back, and he wondered idly how Dana had made William’s room smell like honey.
John tried to keep the baby amused while they waited for Dana to finish her bath, but after ten minutes or so William fell asleep in his sudden, complete way. John put him into his crib. He went downstairs to check the laundry and start the kettle, then back upstairs to see if Dana was done yet.
She wasn’t: the bathroom door was still closed—so he lay down on the bed and started tossing one of the pillows towards the ceiling.
John caught the pillow and sat up. “Dana?” he said, heading to the bathroom and tapping on the door.
There was no answer, not even a splash. John listened for a moment then knocked again. “Dana? Baby?”
He tried the knob. It was locked. He knocked on the door a little harder. “Dana? Are you in there? Let me in, Dana, you’re scaring me.”
Still nothing. John began pounding on the door with his fist. “Dana? Dana!”
“I’m tryin’,” John muttered, and backed up to try battering the door open with his shoulder.
He slammed against the door. Its hinges rattled. “Dana!” Slam! “Dana, open the door!” Slam! “Dana, it’s me!”
The door swung open and John stumbled into the bathroom, falling onto his knees by the tub.
Dana was beneath the water as if someone was holding her there, her legs splayed out over the sides, her eyes closed, her hands hanging open over the edge.
John hauled her out of the water and laid her on the bathroom rug. “Oh God oh Jesus oh God . . .” His hands shook as he pinched closed her nose, tilted back her head, took a deep breath and forced air into her lungs. “C’mon, Dana.” He pressed his fingers to the artery in her throat, finding a thready pulse. “Breathe, baby, breathe!” He gave her another breath and another and another, trying to remember if the Heimlich maneuver would help a drowning victim.
Abruptly Dana vomited a mouthful of water and pushed herself onto her side, gasping and coughing.
When it seemed all the water was expelled from her lungs, she lay in his arms, panting. She trembled with cold, so he pulled the closest bathrobe from its hook on the door and wrapped it around her.
“John?” she whispered, still breathing heavily.
“Yeah, baby?” He smoothed her wet hair from her face and kissed her.
“Where’s the baby?”
“He’s fine, he’s asleep in the crib.”
“What happened? I was just in the bath and then you were giving me mouth-to-mouth—”
He closed his eyes. “The door was locked. You were underwater.”
“I didn’t lock the door.” She grasped his shirt. “I didn’t lock the door, John.”
He kissed her and pressed his cheek to her forehead. “I believe you, baby.” His hands were still shaking.
“I was just planning today and tomorrow, but I’m starting to think the rest of the week would be better.” John sat on the floor and leaned his back against the wall, watching the bed where Dana slept in a bundle of blankets.
On the other end of the line Monica sighed. “Is she that bad off?”
“It’s just going from bad to worse. I’m afraid to leave her alone.”
“Maybe you should get her mother to help you,” Monica said in a soothing tone. “Or you could hire a nurse.”
“How would I explain it to them? Especially her mother. ‘My wife is perfectly normal ninety-nine percent of the except when something invisible tries to kill her’?” He leaned his head on his hand. “No way.”
He heard rustling on Monica’s end, and she said, “If this looks like a long term thing, I could look into having one of my colleagues from New Orleans helping out.”
“I don’t know, Mon, the X-Files require
s a certain outlook the average agent just doesn’t have.”
Monica laughed. “Listen to you be territorial. Trust me, anyone who’s lived in New Orleans long enough can handle the X-Files. Don’t worry about me. Take care of your bride.”
“But how? What do I do?”
There was more rustling. “I’m looking through some old files for anything similar. Maybe I’ll find something to help.”
John exhaled. “This isn’t an X-File, Mon. This is our lives.”
“Our lives *are* X-Files,” Monica said gently, “or haven’t you noticed?” John snorted and Monica said, “I know you’d rather find a more earthly explanation, but everything you’ve said points to something supernatural. You defeat the supernatural by supernatural means, John.”
“She needs a doctor, not a voodoo priestess. Maybe it’s—I dunno—postpartum depression.”
“John . . . Look, I’m just doing research. I want to help.”
He looked over to the bed again, softening. “Thanks. Let me know if you find anything.”
“I will. Take care of her. And yourself.”
“I will.” He clicked off the phone and went to the bed to see if Dana was still sleeping.
Her eyes were open and a tear had rolled down her cheek. “Dana? What’s wrong?” He traced the tear away with his fingers.
“Nothing.” She sniffed and wiped her face with the back of her hand.
“Are you hurting somewhere?” He sat on the edge of the bed and played with her hair. “Are you in pain?”
Dana didn’t look at him for a moment, biting her lip and frowning. She said calmly, “Are you sleeping with her?”
His hand paused in touching her a moment. “What?”
“Monica. Are you sleeping with her?”
“No,” John said, stunned. “Why are you asking that?”
“It’s the way you talk to her.”
“How do I talk to her? Is it different than how I talk to you?”
“Yes, you—you are different with her. You just are.”
“Dana.” He gathered her to him, pulling her onto his lap. “She was there in the worst time of my life. She was a friend when I needed one. That’s all she’s ever been, Dana. My friend.” He kissed her hair.
“That’s all?” she said in a tiny voice. “You promise?”
He said seriously, “I am not and have never been Monica’s lover. Ever.”
Dana studied his face, then sighed, nodded and laid her head on his shoulder. “I’m cold.”
“Let’s get you warmed up, then.” He helped her stand and led her downstairs.
Though the day was mild, Dana had layered herself with pajamas and her bathrobe. John put her in her favorite armchair, gave her a mug of chai tea and lit a fire in the fireplace. He brought the baby to her when William woke from his nap, but instead of taking comfort in his mother as he usually did, William cried until John took him back.
“He hates me,” Dana whispered through chattering teeth. Fever spots burned in her cheeks. Her eyes seemed almost glassy. When John pressed his hand to her forehead he felt heat radiating from her skin even before he touched her. “He doesn’t want me.”
“I don’t think it’s that,” he said, trying to soothe her, but he couldn’t say what he thought it was.
William was still whimpering and clinging to John’s shirt, his body as tense as if he thought he would be passed to a stranger. John rubbed his head and whispered, “Shh, shh, Willie boy,” while Dana watched them from the armchair, wrapped up like a Bedouin.
Finally she leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands, and John was afraid she was going to start crying too. He sat in the little bit of extra space on the armchair and murmured, “C’mon, honey, don’t be upset. My mom says they can tell, you know.”
Dana didn’t answer for a moment, then started muttering something he couldn’t hear. “Dana? Honey? What is it?” He leaned closer, pushed the blanket away from her face and watched her lips move. “Dana?”
“Make it stop make it stop make it stop make it stop make it stop Make It Stop Make It Stop Make It Stop MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP!” She shoved him away and got up from the chair, throwing the blankets aside. John clutched William protectively and the baby stopped making noises. They both stared at Dana as she paced, her fists pressed against her temples. “I’m sick of it! I’m sick of its noises and its smell and its shit! Make it stop, John!”
“Honey,” John whispered. “He’s just a baby.”
“It changed everything,” Dana said in a harsh, completely un-Dana-like voice. “I don’t want it anymore.”
“Dana, Dana,” she mimicked. “Admit it, Johnny boy, you’d be a lot happier if there were no baby, if there were no Dana, then you could be fucking your whore as much as you want.”
“Dana,” he whispered again, unable to stop himself. He’d never heard such words from her, never felt the malice that was in her eyes now. “I’m not sleeping with Monica. You know that.”
She stopped pacing and faced him, her eyes reminding him of junkies he’d hauled in as a cop. “I never loved you,” she said in a low, choked voice.
John felt his heart stop beating. William started crying again.
“You know that. In your heart you know that. You know what I really want.” She eyed him, her lips snarling back from her teeth. “A substitute for a dead lover, that’s all you’ve ever been.”
“You don’t mean that,” John said, his own voice low too. “It’s the fever talking. You’re delirious, honey, it’s probably pneumonia. We need to get you to a hospital.”
“I’ve never felt better.” She stepped closer to him, speaking in that cold, terrible voice. “If we got rid of him, if it were just you and me, everyone would be so much happier.”
“Honey, I want you to lie down. I’ll get you some ice—”
She grabbed at the baby, making William wail, and John twisted away to block her with his body. “Give it to me!” she howled, clawing at his back with her nails. “I want it! It’s mine!”
He grabbed her wrist with one hand and shook her, too angry to be gentle. William hid his face in John’s neck. “Dana!” he said sharply. “Stop it! You’re not well. You’re not yourself.”
“You have no idea,” she whispered, but there was a strange glimmer in her hyper-dilated eyes. It chilled John to his bones. “You know what it’s been, John? You know what it’s been all your life, everything that’s happened to you, everything that makes you sad? You know why?”
“Why?” he breathed.
She smiled. It was not Dana’s smile. “Because after all these years, I finally figured out how to break you.” She swung something heavy, grunting with the effort, and slammed it into John’s head.
John staggered and William screamed again as Dana plucked him from John’s arms. John fell to his knees, to the floor. The linoleum was cool beneath his cheek. Dimly he saw Dana grab a bread knife from the drawer and run up the stairs. Broken shards from the lamp she’d hit him with were scattered on the floor. He closed his eyes.
“Daddy, get up!”
“. . . can’t . . .”
“Daddy, you have to save him! You can’t let the bad man hurt him!”
He opened his eyes and groaned. “Luke?”
Luke was kneeling beside him, his face scared, his eyes full. “Daddy. Oh, Daddy. Get up, Daddy. On your feet. Save William. Save Dana. Get up, Daddy.”
John crawled a few feet before he collapsed. “The bad man,” he muttered.
“Up the stairs, Daddy. You can do it. I’ll help you.”
He felt hands on his, a small sturdy body pulling him up the stairs that seemed as impossible as Everest. He saw Luke’s blond hair and his frightened face as the boy coaxed him onward. He saw the little girl at the top of the landing, her face streaked with tears.
“Stop him,” she said. “Don’t let him hurt my mommy.”
“Yes,” John said as Luke helped him to the nursery. Mulder was at the door, his face pale and frightened too.
“He’s too strong,” Mulder said. “I can’t—my son— Dana—”
“Dana,” John whispered, because the baby was on the floor, screaming with fear, his clothes torn open, and Dana was crumpled beside him. A dark stain was spreading on the carpet fr
om her wrists. The knife was dulled with blood.
John gathered her into his arms, turning her over, and pushed her hair from her face. “Dana? Baby?”
Her eyes barely opened. They were blue again instead of that terrible black. “I couldn’t . . . he wanted me to . . . I could feel him . . . I fought him, John . . . I fought him as hard as I could . . . he’s so strong . . .”
“It’s okay, baby, it’s okay. Hang on.” He started to lay her down again but she grasped his shirt.
“I stopped him the only way I could,” she said, and her eyes slipped closed.